For the 29th year, the Santa Claus Express hosted more than 1,400 deserving children, with trips departing from San Bernardino, Fullerton and Barstow. Children were selected for the free rides by a variety of organizations, including the United Way, Scottish Rite, Ronald McDonald House and Giving Children Hope, to name a few. On board, BNSF employees volunteered their time to host the children and help Santa Claus deliver presents and refreshments during each of the trips.

But one volunteer went above and beyond! Julie Ortiz, who is married to BNSF engineer Sixto Ortiz, has been a volunteer on the Christmas train for 5 years, overseeing other volunteers and helping plan all the details for the Southern California trips. On Sunday, Dec. 15, despite being nine months pregnant, Julie was moving through the train coordinating volunteers, while her husband was operating the train for the Fullerton ride. But as the festive trip was wrapping up, Julie realized the baby had waited long enough and was on his way. An ambulance and fire truck met the train as it returned to the Fullerton Station and rushed Julie to a local hospital, where her baby was born soon thereafter.

Mom and baby are doing well – and Julie even checked in to make sure everything went smoothly for the Barstow ride before she checked out of the hospital! Julie and Sixto exemplify the dedication and compassion of all the BNSF volunteers who give their time to make the holidays brighter for those in need.